Visit the link below to find out more about Seeking Redemption. Included in the Drastic Measures Anthology – a collection of short fiction published by Blueberry Lane Books, it features authors George Clayton Johnson (Ocean’s 11), Ben Parris (Wade of Aquitaine), Melissa Snow and others!
I moved aside and watched as she stepped across the threshold. Closing the door, I turned to face her. “What are you doing here, Bea?”
She stood for a long moment and the silence grew larger. It crept into all the nooks and crannies of my tiny apartment, an almost visible presence. “I’m sorry.” She wet her lips and looked at the floor. “I didn’t know where else to go.”
I noticed my apartment now contained a new smell; dank, musty, like the contents of a closet in an abandoned hundred-year-old house. Her dirty black clothes hung off her as though they’d been draped over a wire hanger.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
Beatrice sighed, a shuddering exhale full of sorrow and defeat. “A lot.”
Seeing the sadness in her face, I realized how little she resembled the carefree younger sister I used to know. What happened to the pig-tailed girl who ran up to me after school, eager to share stories about our day?
I shook my head as I took the suitcase from her. One hand on her shoulder, I guided her toward the bathroom. “Since you’re here, why don’t you take a hot shower? I have some clothes you can wear.” Bea nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.
I gathered some clothes and a fresh towel out of my closet and laid them on the bathroom counter. In the kitchen I busied myself with wiping the counters and stove. Thoughts bombarded me. What the hell’s she gotten into now? How am I going to tell Mom?
I turned on the television for background noise but found myself unable to concentrate as faces flashed across the screen. I gnawed at my fingernails. She has no right to barge into my life like this. I should tell her to leave. Who does she think she is?
Bea emerged from the bathroom towel drying her hair, pink splotches on her cheeks from the shower’s heat. Her pale face, scrubbed clean of makeup, looked innocent and fresh.
“Thanks, it’s been a long time since I had a good shower.”
I jumped up, nervous and needing to do something, anything, with my hands. “You hungry?”
Bea nodded and returned the towel to the bathroom.
“Let’s grab some lunch.” I grabbed my keys and a pair of sunglasses while she slipped into a pair of my sandals. We stepped outside into the warm summer air and walked for a block without saying a word.
I spoke first, looking straight ahead. “You look tired.”
Bea walked beside me, watching the sidewalk pass under her feet. She nodded and looked back at the ground. “I’ve had a rough year.”
I felt a brief pang of guilt and shoved it aside. I had no idea what had happened in her life since I’d seen her last. After she came to the reunion last year, drunk and stoned, I cut all ties with her. It wasn’t always that way. Bea and I were inseparable as children. Our mother did the best she could, raising us by herself, but she had little time or patience for two hyperactive girls who wanted nothing more than to climb trees and terrorize the neighborhood boys. Somehow, Bea always managed to cause more mischief; from early on, trouble seemed drawn to her.
“Do you wanna talk about it? Are you in trouble?”
Bea laughed, the sound hoarse and bitter, coming from deep inside her chest. “No more than usual.”
I glared at her until she spoke again.
“Look, I just need somewhere that I can get it together, you know? Figure out what I’m gonna do with my life.” She looked down at the ground. “Just a couple days, maybe a week.”
We arrived at the door to the deli and I forced myself to hold onto the anger simmering in my chest. Bea had no one to blame but herself for her life. So she was looking for a handout? Well, she had another thing coming. We found a corner table away from some of the other patrons. Once our waitress had taken our drink requests, Bea spoke first as she shredded a napkin into tiny pieces.
“I’m just tired of my life being so hard, you know Diana?” She looked up at me. “I’m tired of having to do it all alone, having to struggle so hard every day.”
Bitterness rose deep within me. As if it has been easier for me? I swallowed hard, choking the words down.
The waitress interrupted us with two glasses of ice water. Bea proceeded to gulp down her drink. I slid my glass toward her once she had finished.
“I’m sick of the drugs, the sex, all of it.” Bea took a breath. “I wanna stop. I want my life back.”
I stared at her, unsure of what to say. My voice came out cracked and crumbling, like a dry riverbed. “Why should I believe you now? After everything you’ve done?
“I can’t do this alone.” Her royal blue eyes looked at me, pleading, tear-filled. “I need help. I know that now.”
I inhaled a deep breath, and remembered telling her the year before she needed to slow down. The memory of her words ripped me open and this time the anger overflowed.
“’You don’t know anything about anything’, isn’t that what you said to me?” I gritted my teeth. “You made your choice long ago, remember? You didn’t need anyone then, but you expect me to believe you suddenly need my help? ”
Tears spilled down her cheeks. “Oh God – I never should have said that.”
I looked away for a moment, watching some of the patrons nearby as they deliberately stared at their plates and avoided looking toward our table. “I don’t know, Bea. You can’t just expect me to pretend it never happened.”
“I know.” Bea leaned toward me. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’d just like a second chance, an opportunity to make it up to you.”
The waitress returned with our food. I took a big bite of my sandwich, trying to think of a response. Bea’s food sat before her, untouched.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
“I don’t know.” Bea leaned back against the chair. “I don’t feel so good.”
I frowned at her. “You drank that water like you were never going to see any again. Probably gave yourself a stomach ache.”
I watched horrified, as my sister collapsed to the floor. “Bea! Oh my god, someone call 9-1-1.” I threw myself to my knees beside her and pushed Bea onto her back to feel for a pulse. What has she done to herself now?